A right to privacy is not explicitly outlined anywhere in the United States Constitution. Over the last 200 years, court cases have determined that certain aspects of the Constitution provide a privacy right to individuals. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments are two amendments that implicitly have been found to provide major individual privacy rights. These rights extend anywhere from a person’s body to their thoughts and even some property, i.e., house and phone. Privacy, however, is not an absolute right. Privacy can be restricted to protect national security or public safety. Although the parameters of privacy rights are still being developed, there is a good foundation for what constitutes an individual’s privacy in the physical world. Digital privacy rights and data protection are not as well established.
Digital technologies and the internet are fairly new inventions, but their capabilities have grown exponentially since their creation. With the growth of digital technologies more information has been gathered on an individual’s online presence reducing their anonymity and digital privacy. Federal lawmakers have passed laws regulating privacy on the internet, but these laws tackled issues such as children’s privacy or fraud, they were not directed at consumer privacy. Currently there is no federal data protection regulation in the United States like there is in Europe with the GDPR. However, all hope is not lost because some states have taken it upon themselves to regulate what companies can provide to third parties.
California is known to have one of the more extensive data protection laws in the United States with the CCPA. Many other states are either currently working on or have passed data protection laws that protect consumer privacy. The CCPA doesn’t just protect California residents but may also protect consumers in other states in certain circumstances. These circumstances are limited so it really depends on the website or application.
Knowing what laws your state has concerning privacy or if any of the websites or applications that you use have privacy laws enforced against them can go a long way in allowing you to take back control of your privacy. You may have the option to opt out of sharing, or being tracked, or even delete all of your information on the website or application. These options may give you back control of your information, protecting your digital footprint and your data from being shared or sold to third parties. It may also protect you more against data breaches of the company because you may not have as much information for the hacker to take.
Until every state in the United States has a data protection law in place or there is a federal regulation, consumers information may not be protected. Regulations will not protect all consumer information. It is important for consumers to be informed about their digital rights so that they can protect their data and digital footprint from being shared, sold, or used nefariously. A foundation is slowly being laid for digital privacy, but if consumers want to protect themselves now, they should know their rights.